NEW DIRECTIONAL PUT PLAYS

Intl. Business Machines - IBM - close: 161.82 change: -0.83

Stop Loss: 165.75
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Average Daily Volume = 4.1 million
Entry on November -- at $---.--
Listed on November 05, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
IBM is considered a bellwether in the technology sector. The company was founded back 1910 and has been known as IBM since 1924. They've grown into a powerhouse of information technology, hardware, software, and services. Unfortunately for IBM and its shareholders the company's business seems to have stalled as it faces tougher competition across all of its products.

Big Blue, the company's nickname, was a master manipulator of the Wall Street earnings game. IBM has for years massaged its earnings per share results with massive stock buybacks. This wasn't a big secret. Then finally their strategy started to stall. IBM's stock struggled for years after its 1999 peak under $140 a share.

The stock market's QE fueled rally from the 2008 low fueled a massive run in IBM and shares grew from $70 late 2008 to over $215 in early 2013. While the U.S. market continued to run higher in 2013 and 2014 IBM did not participate. That's because revenues have been flat or declining since mid 2013. At the same time investors became more suspicious of the financial engineering of IBM's earnings results with its massive stock buybacks.

Big Blue has spent $108 billion on stock buybacks since 2000. About $12 billion of that was just in the first six months of 2014. IBM has also spent $30 billion on dividends since 2000. Now normally stock buybacks and dividends are shareholder friendly but critics argue that IBM has financed a lot of these expenses with debt. Meanwhile IBM's revenues have fallen to levels not seen since 2008.

IBM's most recent earnings report was October 20th and the results were a big disappointment that sent shares plunging to multi-year lows. Wall Street was looking for a profit of $4.32 per share on revenues of $23.37 billion. IBM reported $3.68 per share, a 64 cent miss. Earnings dropped -4% to $22.4 billion, another miss.

Management said revenues declined across all of their major product lines and geographies. EPS results were down -10%. Net income was down -18%. Gross margins were down 90 basis points to 49.2%. Revenues in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Africa were all down -2%. Revenues in Asia-Pacific slipped -9%.

IBM said they saw a significant slowdown in September and the sharp rise in the dollar played a big impact on its results. Furthermore management has removed their previous earnings guidance of $20 per share in 2015. Multiple analyst firms have lowered their price target on IBM following this report.

Bullish investors will argue that IBM has been steadily raising its dividend over the last several years, which is true. The stock currently has a respectable yield of 2.7%. Unfortunately, high-yield stocks are going to look less attractive when the Federal Reserve starts raising rates in 2015. Bulls will also argue that IBM is cheap on a valuation basis with its P/E down to 10. We also know a cheap stock can always get a lot cheaper. A value play could turn into a value trap.

Currently shares of IBM have already seen their oversold bounce roll over. If shares breakdown under their October lows the next support level could be the $140 area. Tonight we are suggesting a trigger to buy puts at $160.90. More conservative traders may want to use a trigger under $160.00 instead.

Trigger @ $160.90

- Suggested Positions -

Buy the 2015 Jan $160 PUT (IBM150117P160) current ask $4.20

Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

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